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From 'static kill' to 'bottom kill’: next steps in Gulf oil spill

BP readies plans to permanently seal the ruptured well in the Gulf oil spill through two operations in the next two weeks – the initial ‘static kill’ followed by the final ‘bottom kill.’

A response vessel is seen along a line of emulsified oil between the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site and the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana coast, Monday.

Gerald Herbert/AP

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With the operation to permanently seal the runaway well at the center of the Gulf oil spill set to begin as early as the week after next, relief efforts are already casting an eye to the longer-term future to determine "how clean is clean" and when they will begin to draw down resources.

A coordinated effort to clean up residual oil left standing in marshes and beaches will continue through September, said retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is overseeing the federal effort, in a press briefing Monday.

This week BP and Coast Guard officials are preparing what they call a “bottom kill” – the permanent sealing of the runaway Macondo well through one of the two relief wells drilled 13,000 feet below the seafloor. According to Allen, BP will deposit through the relief well a combination of drilling mud, cement, liquids, and nitrogen to stop the flow of oil – perhaps as early as Aug. 7.

That operation will come after “static kill,” which has a tentative start date of next Monday. Static kill would deposit the same mixture of materials into the top of the well. Unlike “top kill” in late May, which employed the same tactic, static kill is considered a more realistic solution to preventing oil flow because the container cap, installed in mid-July, is providing a tighter seal around the wellhead and therefore won't allow oil and gas to escape.

Both operations are being prepared simultaneously. Monday the well lines are being reattached to the riser pipes that extend from the seafloor to near the surface, after they were temporarily abandoned this weekend due to the threat of tropical storm Bonnie. Both lines will be flushed to remove sediments.

Starting Wednesday and continuing through Sunday, the lines will each be fitted with a 2,000-foot internal casing pipe that will carry the materials downward. Once they are in place, the static kill operation will occur, likely Monday. The entire endeavor is set to prepare the launch of the relief well operation.


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